Captain Tom Moore to receive 100th birthday Spitfire salute

28 April 2020, 07:56

Captain Tom Moore will celebrate his 100th birthday on Thursday
Captain Tom Moore will celebrate his 100th birthday on Thursday. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Captain Tom Moore's 100th birthday Spitfire flypast will go ahead after initially being cancelled amid concerns it would draw large crowds who could break social-distancing rules.

The birthday honour will take place over Captain Moore's home on Thursday as he celebrates his century.

Initially, officials raised concerns the flight, featuring a Mk 9 Spitfire, would be too much of a draw for crowds.

The Department for Transport also deemed the sortie as "non-essential" travel and raised concerns over the numbers of spectators who could turn up to watch the flight during the coronavirus lockdown.

However this has now been changed.

Capt Moore has gained large amounts of publicity after he raised more than £29 million for the NHS by walking laps of his garden.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wrote on Twitter that the RAF aerial salute was "meant to be a surprise".

The Ministry of Defence said the flypast would "celebrate Captain Tom's birthday and mark his amazing fundraising achievement" and told people "to follow Captain Tom's disciplined example and not gather to watch the flypast but continue following guidelines on social distancing".

The flight was thought to not need the Department for Transport's permission as it will stay within Biggin Hill's air traffic zone restrictions, flying within a five-nautical mile diameter around the airfield, in London's south-east outskirts.

Its planned circuit will take it over the edge of the Princess Royal University Hospital, allowing another gesture towards patients and staff.

"That way they can see a Spitfire and we can do a salute to the people of the NHS," Alex Monk, from Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar, said.

Meanwhile, a school in Bedfordshire has been flooded with more than 125,000 cards from well-wishers across the globe for Capt Moore's birthday.

Famous names including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Dame Kelly Holmes and England football captain Harry Kane were among those to send cards to the Bedford School, where Capt Moore's grandson, Benjie Ingram-Moore, attends.

Benjie turned to his school for help when he learned that the post office was being swamped with cards.

The 16-year-old said: "The volume of cards that have been sent to granddad is just astonishing. So many of the cards are truly heartfelt with thousands from young children who have taken the time to use their artistic talent and write a personal message.

"Another £60,000 has been generously been donated via his birthday cards.

"It means a lot to granddad as well as us as a family. We are hugely proud of how the nation has taken granddad to its heart. Words can't express how much I idolise him."

Captain Tom was originally planning to mark his centenary with a family party but the celebrations have been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A total of 140 members of school staff, parents and pupils past and present spent 1,750 hours opening each card and creating a display in Bedford School's Great Hall.

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on the nation to show the same optimism and energy as Captain Tom in dealing with the coronavirus crisis.

"If we, as a country, can show the same spirit of optimism and energy shown by Captain Tom Moore, who turns 100 this week, if we can show the same spirit of unity and determination as we have all shown in the past six weeks, then I have absolutely no doubt that we will beat it together," Mr Johnson said.

In another tribute to Capt Moore, all mail sent from Monday will be stamped with a special postmark in his honour.